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three pairs of lovers with space



Gaius Scantinius[1] Capitolinus was a plebeian magistrate[2] in 227 or 226 BC, when he was impeached by the curule aedile, Marcus Claudius Marcellus. Marcellus (ca. 268-208 BC) later rose to be consul five times and a distinguished general, so Plutarch wrote a biography of him  at the beginning of the second century AD as one of his Parallel Lives.  Plutarch’s longer version of the story is given here first, followed by the only other surviving one from Valerius Maximus’s Nine Books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings.

The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume LXXXVII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1917).


Plutarch, Life of Marcellus 2 iii-iv

During his aedileship, he was compelled to bring a disagreeable impeachment into the senate. He had a son, named Marcus like himself,[3] who was in the flower of his boyish beauty, and not less admired by his countrymen for his modesty and good training. To this boy Capitolinus, the colleague of Marcellus, a bold and licentious man, made overtures of love. The boy at first repelled the attempt by himself, but when it was made again, told his father. Marcellus, highly indignant, denounced the man in the senate.[4]

The culprit devised many exceptions and ways of escape, appealing to the tribunes of the people, and when these rejected his appeal, he sought to escape the charge by denying it. There had been no witness of his proposals, and therefore the senate decided to summon the boy before them. When he appeared, and they beheld his blushes, tears, and shame mingled with quenchless indignation, they wanted no further proof, but condemned Capitolinus, and set a fine upon him. With this money Marcellus had silver libation-bowls made, and dedicated them to the gods.

Marcellus, the aedile of 226 BC, from George Crabb's Universal Historical Dictionary, 1825

[iii] Ἠναγκάσθη δὲ ἀγορανομῶν δίκην ἀβούλητον εἰσενεγκεῖν. ἦν γὰρ αὐτῷ παῖς ὁμώνυμος ἐν ὥρᾳ, τὴν ὄψιν ἐκπρεπής, οὐχ ἧττον δὲ τῷ σωφρονεῖν καὶ πεπαιδεῦσθαι περίβλεπτος ὑπὸ τῶν πολιτῶν· τούτῳ Καπετωλῖνος ὁ τοῦ Μαρκέλλου συνάρχων, ἀσελγὴς ἀνὴρ καὶ θρασύς, ἐρῶν λόγους προσήνεγκε. τοῦ δὲ παιδὸς τὸ μὲν πρῶτον αὐτοῦ καθ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ἀποτριψαμένου τὴν πεῖραν, ὡς δὲ αὖθις ἐπεχείρησε κατειπόντος πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, βαρέως ἐνεγκὼν ὁ Μάρκελλος προσήγγειλε τῇ βουλῇ τὸν ἄνθρωπον.

[iv] ὁ δὲ πολλὰς μὲν ἀποδράσεις καὶ παραγραφὰς ἐμηχανᾶτο, τοὺς δημάρχους ἐπικαλούμενος, ἐκείνων δὲ μὴ προσδεχομένων τὴν ἐπίκλησιν ἀρνήσει τὴν αἰτίαν ἔφευγε. καὶ μάρτυρος οὐδενὸς τῶν λόγων γεγονότος ἔδοξε μεταπέμπεσθαι τὸν παῖδα τῇ βουλῇ. παραγενομένου δ᾿ ἰδόντες ἐρύθημα καὶ δάκρυον καὶ μεμιγμένον ἀπαύστῳ1 τῷ θυμουμένῳ τὸ αἰδούμενον, οὐδενὸς ἄλλου δεηθέντες τεκμηριου κατεψηφίσαντο καὶ χρήμασιν ἐζημίωσαν Καπετωλῖνον, ἐξ ὧν ὁ Μάρκελλος ἀργυρᾶ λοιβεῖα ποιησάμενος τοῖς θεοῖς καθιέρωσεν.

The Curia Hostilia, the Senate house in the 3rd century BC, a reconstruction by Lauro Romano, 1615


Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings VI 1 vii

The following reference to the story comes in a  list of stupra,  attempted or successful seductions or rapes of freeborn Roman boys, maidens or wives that make up a section entitled “Of Chastity”. Valerius compiled his books of anecdotes during the reign of Tiberius (AD 14-37).

The translation is by D. R. Shackleton Bailey in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCCCXCIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000), with one amendment explained in a footnote.

There follows an example excellent in name and memorable in deed. Curule Aedile M. Claudius Marcellus summoned Tribune of the Plebs C. Scantinius Capitolinus to trial before the people on a charge of having tried to seduce his son. Scantinius asserted that as a holder of a sacrosanct power he could not be forced to attend and on that account asked the Tribunes for aid. But the entire board of Tribunes refused to intervene to prevent an inquiry concerning chastity from taking its course. Scantinius therefore was cited as defendant and convicted on the sole evidence of the person who had been solicited. We are told that when the young male[5] was brought to the rostra he fixed his eyes on the ground and persistently kept mute, by which modest silence he contributed powerfully to his own avenging.  Sequitur excellentis nominis ac memorabilis facti exemplum. M. Claudius Marcellus aedilis curulis C. Scantinio Capitolino tribuno plebis diem ad populum dixit quod filium suum de stupro appellasset, eoque adseverante se cogi non posse ut adesset quia sacrosanctam potestatem haberet, et ob id tribunicium auxilium implorante, totum collegium tribunorum negavit se intercedere quo minus pudicitiae quaestio perageretur. citatus itaque Scantinius reus uno teste qui temptatus erat damnatus est. constat iuvenem productum in rostra defixo in terram vultu perseveranter tacuisse, verecundoque silentio plurimum in ultionem suam valuisse. 


[1] Capitolinus’s nomen of Scantinius has led to suggestions that the Scantinian Law, whose precise provisions are much debated but appear to have criminalised at least the pedication of freeborn male Romans, was brought in as a result.  Roman laws were named after their proposers, but the proposer could have been a relation reacting against the damage to the family name.

[2] There is some confusion as to whether Capitolinus was the plebeian aedile, as perhaps implied by Plutarch, or a tribune of the plebs, as stated in Valerius’s version of the story. See the discussion by Rachel Feig Vishnia in “The "Transitio ad plebem" of C. Servilius Geminus”, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik Bd. 114 (1996), p. 29.

[3] He also later became a consul, in 196 BC.

[4] Earlier stories recounted by Livy and Valerius Maximus show that well before the Scantinian law the offence of stuprum already encompassed attempts to violate the sexual integrity of freeborn Romans by getting them to take the passive role (except as wives). It was not the gender of Maximus’s son that was a problem, as it would have been equally stuprum had Capitolinus attempted to seduce Maximus’s daughter or wife.

[5] Shackleton Bailey’s translation of “iuvenem” as “young man”, fair enough under some circumstances, has been amended to the more strictly accurate “young male”, since we know from Plutarch’s version that he was a “boy” and indeed “in the flower of his boyish beauty”.  Moreover, first consulships were most often held not long after a man reached the minimum age of 42, so the younger Marcellus, who achieved this in 196 BC, is unlikely to have passed his mid-teens thirty years earlier.




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